Author and playwright, he won awards for his play A Night for Colored Glass and his first novel, Steam.
Laws died tragically early, having only two or three published works to his credit. Steam ranks among the most brilliant horror novels of all time and, certainly wins the blue ribbon as the finest gay horror novel ever written. Eerie and disturbing, Laws’ haunted bath house serves as a personification of the early AIDS epidemic and, even today, is practically guaranteed to send chills up and down your spine. --Hal Bodner
Jay B. Laws only managed to publish two novels before he became an AIDS casualty in the early 90’s; it is heartbreaking to even think about the incredible work he could have produced had he not been taken so young. Steam, his first novel, is set in San Francisco while AIDS ravages the community there, and is centered around a haunted bathhouse. Everything in this book resonates, even twenty years later; the characters are realistic and heartbreaking, the story itself is a nail-biter, and Laws’ use of language extraordinary. He managed one more novel before he became too sick (the equally sublime The Unfinished), and was well on his way to becoming the gay Stephen King. Rest in peace, Jay, and thank you for sharing your extraordinary gifts with us. --Greg Herren
My reading in those days (1991) consistently turned to Picano, Rechy, White, Holleran, etc. Took a chance on an unknown, Jay B. Laws...the cover of the book, "Steam" brightly sensuous and foreboding at the same time. The storytelling was brilliant, frighteningly believable, a horror story that still, even after all these years occasionally haunts...darkly. --George Seaton
Steam was the winner of a first novel contest sponsored by Alyson Books (back when founder Sasha Alyson ran it); he chose the staff of A Different Light Bookstore in San Francisco, which I then managed, as "readers" for the contest; we considered 15, maybe 20 submissions - word of such contests didn't spread as widely, in those pre-Internet days, as it would now - and, pretty unanimously, settled on Jay's work. We knew that the story was set in SF, which contributed to the staff's enthusiasm, but we didn't know that the author was a local, who visited the bookstore often, a charming, funny fellow who exhibited none of the haunted, haunting emotions of his two fine novels. --Richard LabonteFurther Readings:
Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality by Patrick Moore
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Beacon Press (January 14, 2004)
Amazon: Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality
The radical sexuality of gay American men in the 1970s is often seen as a shameful period of excess that led to the AIDS crisis. Beyond Shame claims that when the gay community divorced itself from this allegedly tainted legacy, the tragic result was an intergenerational disconnect because the original participants were unable to pass on a sense of pride and identity to younger generations. Indeed, one reason for the current rise in HIV, Moore argues, is precisely due to this destructive occurrence, which increased the willingness of younger gay men to engage in unsafe sex.
Lifting the'veil of AIDS,' Moore recasts the gay male sexual culture of the 1970s as both groundbreaking and creative-provocatively comparing extreme sex to art. He presents a powerful yet nuanced snapshot of a maligned, forgotten era. Moore rescues gay America's past, present, and future from a disturbing spiral of destruction and AIDS-related shame, illustrating why it's critical for the gay community to reclaim the decade.
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